A Wild, Wild Hanukkah

Kar-Ben. Oct. 2023. 32p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781728460260; pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781728460338.
PreS-K–This eccentric rhyming Hanukkah counting story is complemented by arresting art. On the first night of Hanukkah, after a soothing rhyming intro, a polar bear “invites himself inside” a boy's house. On the second night, two crocs arrive peeling onions, then three tigers with potatoes, and so on, up to eight “punk-rock penguins.” All of the arriving animals are involved in latke making or another tradition. At the end, the family reads the story, the candles burn down, and Hanukkah ends. The text scans nicely and uses alliterative adjectives for each set of animals. The art is really the star here, however: animals and people are mostly depicted with photorealism, and it has the feel of watercolor and mixed media. While the animals look realistic, their actions are more human, with tigers on their hind feet taking dishes from the pantry and owls frying latkes in a pan. Some of the animals sport hats, or sunglasses, or scarves, yet they still have the aspect and feel of wild creatures. The full-bleed spreads are packed with movement, from stampeding rhinos to penguins who seem to be jumping off the page. A brief author’s note explains the holiday. This unusual book reads aloud smoothly and quickly, and the fantastical art is striking.
VERDICT A pleasant addition for libraries in search of unusual Hanukkah stories.

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